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Daily Archives: February 24, 2011

Where are the Navy and Marines to protect and evacuate US citizens in Libya?

Right now, in Libya, there are hundreds of Americans waiting for evacuation … by ferry.

Seriously.  The State Department has chartered a ferry to take the hundreds of waiting Americans to Malta.  But rough seas have delayed the ferry’s departure until Friday.

So where is our military and why aren’t they involved in the evacuation of Americans threatened by the violence in Libya?

Well there’s actually a simple answer to that:

So far the State Department has not requested the U.S. military to assist in the evacuation of civilians from Libya, something it would specifically have to request. Several U.S. officials have confirmed to CNN there is a vigorous debate inside the administration about whether to involve the military because of concern it could cause further provocations by the Libyan regime.

Ah … fear and intimidation.  Assume the worst and … do nothing.   And when I say nothing, I mean “nothing”. Per POLITICO’s Morning Defense newsletter:

THERE IS NO U.S. MILITARY ROLE IN LIBYA FOR NOW, officials across Washington said Wednesday. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley didn’t explicitly reject calls by McCain, Lieberman and others for a no-fly zone above the country, but that seemed unlikely for the present. Gates told The Weekly Standard the U.S. hasn’t talked with NATO about doing anything. Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan told reporters Wednesday the Pentagon had received no requests to stand up a no-fly zone or use its ships or aircraft to help evacuate Americans.

Nothing.   That’s not to say that the military isn’t trying to at least be prepared should someone decide to call them and ask that they help look out for the safety and security of Americans in an apparent war zone:

In the first indication the crisis with Libya could take on a military dimension, the Pentagon is looking at "all options" it can offer President Barack Obama in dealing with the Libyan crisis a senior U.S. military official tells CNN.

The official declined to be identified because of the extremely sensitive nature of the situation but he has direct knowledge of the current military planning effort.

"Our job is to give options from the military side and that is what we are thinking about now," he said. "We will provide the president with options should he need them."

While all true, we’re in the 10th day of this blowup … 10th day!  And apparently the military, on its own initiative, is trying to provide options to the national governing authority that it has just as apparently not requested.  Notice the wording in the very last sentence above.  “Will provide” and “should he need them”.  That says to me he hasn’t requested them and the military is trying to get ahead of the game without any guidance.

It took the President 9 days to speak out about the situation there and then his remarks were anything but forceful.  Even Chris Matthews found them wanting saying they “lacked dignity”.   Essentially we got the “unacceptable” line and a promise to send the Secretary of State to … Geneva?  Well yes, that’s where she’ll repeat how “unacceptable” all of this is – in 5 days from now, of course.

So in sum, we find out that our government has no plans, other than a ferry  – which I’m sure isn’t big enough to carry the full number of Americans from Libya who might need to be evacuated, but, because of violence, haven’t been able to make it to that particular evacuation point – to evacuate the thousands of American citizens there.  No military plan.  No orders to ships such as the Kearsarge group (which is the closest) or the Enterprise group off Pakistan to redeploy to the coast of Libya to aid in the evacuation of Americans.

No.

As POLITICO’s Morning Defense reminds us:

The Navy and Marines evacuated some 15,000 Americans from Lebanon in 2006, but that was a major undertaking that required several ships.

Well, yes, of course … and we should have had “several ships” moving toward Libya 10 days ago when this thing blew up  — that’s what a prudent administration concerned with its citizens abroad would have done in order to try to ensure that the lives of those citizens in Libya were protected.

Instead, 11 days later those citizens get … a ferry?

~McQ

Runaway Legislatures: Civility is a process, not just words

Since the tragedy in Arizona, where nineteen people were shot (including U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords) and six murdered, talk of “civility” has been plentiful.  The right side of the political spectrum was called to the mat for using such horrible words as “target” and “socialism” and having the temerity to employ Hitler/Nazism comparisons in protest signage (that, the truth be told, they weren’t even carrying).  Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement were specifically denigrated for employing uncivil “eliminationist” rhetoric that was directly responsible for Mr. Jared Lee Loughner pulling the trigger in that awful event on January 8, 2011.

The gross mendacity (and unintentional preterition) of these charges  against the right generally, and the Tea Partiers specifically, is bad enough.  That they are leveled with abject hypocrisy is even worse.  But politics is not a sport well-played in a tit-for-tat fashion.  Everyone is guilty of hyperbole and hypocrisy at some point, regardless of political afflialiation.

What’s truly galling is the way that “civility” is suddenly determined by the language an opponent employs.  Civility has nothing to do with words, but instead, everything to do with action.  On that score, Democrats are behaving in as uncivil a manner as is possible.

A civilized nation conducts itself according to a defined, written, universally applicable and executable set of laws.  Adherence to such laws are the immutable backbone of any society capable of survival.  Wanton disregard of such laws inexorably leads to chaos and tyranny.  Ergo, “civility” does not depend on people speaking nicely about one another, but upon everyone playing by the same rules.

The current flouting of the legal process in Wisconsin and now Indiana, (and what previously occurred in Texas), is the true definition of uncivil.  Ignoring and actively undermining the electoral process is the epitome of “uncivil” action.  Whatever harsh words may or may not have been spoken before, civility is still entirely dependent upon the process for determining the course of action in pursuit of public goals.  Running away in avoidance of legislative duties smacks of cowardice and worse.  It uproots the civil process.

A common observation of the democracy holds that voting is simply a proxy for violence.  Fleshed out a bit, the process of electoral action is made in lieu of battle.  We could decide the course of society based on bloody battle alone, and let might make right. Instead, civil societies have chosen to allow the consent of the governed to rule, the best of which societies have done so through a responsive and accountable republic.  When the governors cease to heed to will of the governed, however, civil society becomes endangered and trouble is inevitable.

No less than Thomas Jefferson warned of the dangers in pursuing “uncivil” means of governance in the “shot across the bow” leading to the American Revolution, entitled “A Summary View of the Rights of British America” (emphasis added):

And this his majesty will think we have reason to expect when he reflects that he is no more than the chief officer of the people, appointed by the laws, and circumscribed with definite powers, to assist in working the great machine of government erected for their use, and consequently subject to their superintendance

To remind him that our ancestors, before their emigration to America, were the free inhabitants of the British dominions in Europe, and possessed a right, which nature has given to all men, of departing from the country in which chance, not choice has placed them, of going in quest of new habitations, and of there establishing new societies, under such laws and regulations as to them shall seem most likely to promote public happiness. That their Saxon ancestors had under this universal law, in like manner, left their native wilds and woods in the North of Europe, had possessed themselves of the island of Britain then less charged with inhabitants, and had established there that system of laws which has so long been the glory and protection of that country … Their own blood was spilt in acquiring lands for their settlement, their own fortunes expended in making that settlement effectual. For themselves they fought, for themselves they conquered, and for themselves alone they have right to hold

But that not long were they permitted, however far they thought themselves removed from the hand of oppression, to hold undisturbed the rights thus acquired at the hazard of their lives and loss of their fortunes. A family of princes was then on the British throne, whose treasonable crimes against their people brought on them afterwards the exertion of those sacred and sovereign rights of punishment, reserved in the hands of the people for cases of extreme necessity, and judged by the constitution unsafe to be delegated to any other judicature. While every day brought forth some new and unjustifiable exertion of power over their subjects on that side the water, it was not to be expected that those here, much less able at that time to oppose the designs of despotism, should be exempted from injury. Accordingly that country which had been acquired by the lives, the labors and the fortunes of individual adventurers, was by these princes at several times parted out and distributed among the favorites and followers of their fortunes; and by an assumed right of the crown alone were erected into distinct and independent governments

Jefferson later simplified his empirical understanding of how societies work with the infamous quote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Another way of comprehending the principle is that a nation of laws only survives as long as the laws are adhered to. Every sovereign, whether composed of one or many, can only retain the authority entrusted to it by the people for as long as it respects that trust.  Once it strays, enough to undermine the confidence of the governed, those “sacred and sovereign rights of punishment” will come into play.  While such an extreme consequence may be remote at this time, there is no good that can come from enacting the foundations for its execution.

When the basis of a democratic republic — i.e. the electoral process — is entirely ignored and, worse, evaded as a politically inconvenient nuisance to the preferred outcomes of the very people entrusted with the public duty to  uphold the republic, is there any doubt that it will fall?

Civility in our political language is certainly useful and desirable, if not actually attainable.  In contrast, civility – i.e. respect for the process and outcomes thereof – is the sine qua non of our democratic institutions.  While we may prefer the former, we really must insist on the latter.

SPLC: Giffords’ shooter “absorbed … ideas from … radical right”

The Southern Poverty Law Center is again pitching its slanted quarterly “Intelligence Report” in which it shockingly (/sarc) finds over “1,000 hate groups” on the right.

Wow. 

What a surprise. 

Don’t forget, this has to do with whatever the SPLC decides constitutes “hate” and apparently that means pretty much whatever it decides fits its agenda of giving the left  a pass and demonizing the right.  The prefect example of that is how it treats the shooting in Tucson of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords:

That’s in addition to the attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, an attack that left six dead that same month. The assailant appeared to be severely mentally ill, but he also seemed to have absorbed certain ideas from the radical right, including the notion that the federal government is evil.

Everyone but the SPLC seems to disagree with the notion that he was motivated by any particular ideology or a certain type of ideas.   He was all over the place.   Additionally, and inconveniently, the notion that the “federal government is evil” certainly isn’t an exclusive idea of the radical right if the weathermen, SDS, and any number of left-wing groups from the 60s and 70s are any indication.  Ask Bill Ayers. Consult with the plethora of black liberation and black separatist movements.

The point, of course, is their treatment of Loughner’s attempt on Giffords is indicative of their ability to rationalize anything they wish too into “right-wing extremism” and thus “hate”.  It plays perfectly into their desired theme of an alarming rise of right wing hate groups, whether true or not.

And that’s pretty much how their tagging of other right-wing and “extremist” groups (aka “hate groups”) goes as well.  Here’s the key to the SPLC’s “findings”:

“Far-right extremists remain highly energized, even as politicians across the country co-opt many of the radical ideas and issues that are important to them,” said Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report. “This success in having their voices heard in the political arena, where they have long occupied the fringe of conservative thought, might eventually take the wind out of their sails, but so far we’re not seeing any sign of that.

Some of the “radical ideas” the politicians across the country have “co-opt[ed]?”  Well here’s a short list as I’ve observed them:

  • Immigration laws should be followed and enforced
  • Government should spend less
  • Government should regulate less
  • Government should be smaller
  • Government should be less intrusive
  • Politicians should be held accountable

Association with any group which might espouse such things (don’t worry, most of the Founding Fathers would fall into the SPLC’s definition of radical right-wing fanatics and members of “hate” groups) and is actively promoting them puts you in the "antigovernment Patriot movement“ whether you like it or not. And of course that makes you a member of a ‘conspiracy minded organization’ which sees the federal government as the "primary enemy".

Add “nativist groups” and plain old vanilla right-wing hate groups and you have an “alarming rise” in hate groups on the right.

The biggest rise among right-wing haters, per the SPLC,  is a single “movement” that apparently most threatens the left.  The SPLC dutifully takes them on and categorizes them as hate groups in order to demonize them:

But the most dramatic growth in the radical right came in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement. These conspiracy-minded organizations, which see the federal government as their primary enemy, grew by 61 percent over the previous year. Their numbers increased to 824 groups in 2010, from 512 groups a year earlier. Previously, the only higher count of Patriot groups came in 1996, during the movement’s heyday, when the SPLC found 858 groups. Militias, the paramilitary arm of the Patriot movement, grew from 127 groups to 330 – a 160 percent increase.

Never mentioned by name, the obvious “growth” in the “radical right” came from Tea Party groups forming.  And, as with much of the left, the SPLC attempts to lay “hate” at the foundation of the Tea Party’s formation:

The number of active hate groups in the United States topped 1,000 for the first time and the antigovernment “Patriot” movement expanded dramatically for the second straight year as the radical right showed continued explosive growth in 2010.

Several factors fueled the growth: resentment over the changing racial demographics of the country, frustration over the lagging economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and other demonizing propaganda aimed at minorities and the government.

I follow the news fairly closely, but I’ve seen no “mainstreaming of conspiracy theories”.  “Obama is a Muslim” – mainstreamed? Ignored for the most part?  Birthers?  Same same.  And the right isn’t exclusive in this area – just ask the truthers, a group and “conspiracy” completely ignored by the SPLC when it was at its peak (it still exists, btw).

Certainly “Patriot groups” have risen because of government profligacy, frustration over the economy (and government’s role in hurting it even further), but I’m at a loss to remember anything about that movement that seemed concerned with “changing racial demographics” and “demonizing propaganda aimed at minorities”, do you? 

Government and government excess/intrusion  has been the primary focus of those groups the SPLC has chosen to demonize by labeling them “hate groups”.  

Are there fringe right-wing extremists?  Of course.  Just as there are fringe left-wing extremists.  But they’re such a tiny portion of the population on each side of the ideological divide as to be negligible .  Unless you’re the SPLC, that is, and your bread and butter is finding hate where none exists so you can denounce it, play to the paranoia of the left and get them to send you money.

We should help the SPLC set up some better criteria for assessing hate, don’t you think?

Here, for the SPLC,  is a check list of some things to look for among real hate groups provided by John Sexton (I’ve added the last one).  I assume we’ll see this bunch in SPLC’s next sensationalized “Intelligence Report” denouncing them as left-wing “hate groups”, no?

  • Violent rhetoric? Check. Double check.
  • Unhinged political analogies? Check.
  • Hilter signs? Check.
  • Crosshairs on politicians. Check.
  • Anger and cursing? Check.  Double check.
  • Shoving? Check.
  • Racial overtones? Check.
  • Astroturfing by national organizations? Check.
  • Assault? Check.

~McQ

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